Needles & Delaney should come with fucking warning labels


Delaney ended her furious rant glaring up at me red-faced, fists clenched white-knuckle tight by her sides.

I was still chuckling.

Delaney had her days. Hell, we all did, I had days when it was hard to keep the lid screwed on, and I had a lot more experience at it than she did. Of course, my laughter hardly helped; it made her madder than hell.

She suddenly blinked and turned pale, a flash of fear on her face as she bolted past me, rushing towards the trailer. I turned to watch her just as Sheree stepped out the door and pulled her into a hug. She looked at me over the top of Delaney’s head, and shot me a wink and a soft smile.

I pointed to Delaney and then at the knuckles of my left hand. She nodded and gently ushered Delaney inside; she’d clean and bandage where Delaney’d caught her hand when the damn wrench slipped. That had to hurt; this late in the year it was always a little cold, and skinning your knuckles always hurts more when it’s cold.

I’d warned her twice about that nut; it was frozen and damn near rounded off. She had to try it her own way first, though. Cost her a little skin and a bit of blood. We both tested our tetanus shots on a regular basis. That just happens in a salvage yard. Maybe she’d learn from it. Delaney’s hard head meant she was a slow learner, sometimes.

I was sure it’d be okay, because Friday was always Movie Night at Dawes’s Salvage. I shrugged and went back to work. Skinned my own fucking knuckles before I followed my own suggestion, heated the nut with a propane torch and removed it. I’m a slow learner, too.

At five-thirty, I headed up to the trailer to clean up. Delaney was nowhere to be seen, but Sheree was pulling bowls out for the stew I’d put in the slow cooker earlier. With Sheree working every weekday, I usually set up dinner during the week. Winter meals were easy, dump it all in a slow cooker, wait eight hours and eat.

Sheree gave me a little kiss and thumped me on the chest. “No more sugar ’til you get scrubbed up.” She shot a glance back towards the far bedroom where some kind of unrecognizable music was playing. “She’ll be okay. Just scared herself. She’s always afraid she’s gone too far. Worried t’death you’re gonna send her back.”

I shook my head. “Not gonna happen. Nobody deserves to have to live with that bitch. I’d send Delaney to Gitmo before I sent her back there.”

Sheree smiled. “She has to let that anger out and she knows she can do it to you because you can take it.”

I knew that was true, she’d never so much as raised her voice to Sheree, not once. “Every time she does it, I see myself. Besides, it’s karma; I missed most of Tara and Tiffany’s teenage years, I probably have some teenage screaming coming.”

Sheree stretched up and gave me another, more intense, kiss. “Go get cleaned up. You deserve a few more of those, and I’d rather give ’em to ya when you smell better.”

After I cleaned up and came out for dinner, I found them already at the table, Delaney looking more than a little tense. Sheree talked about her day down at Big Ed’s Quickmart convenience store, mostly dealing with a malfunctioning Slurpee machine and a lost beer truck. Her news that Shelley had to do community service again so she was stuck with the 10-to-2 shift the next day wasn’t great, but I had some things to do, so it’d be okay. Still, I could just sit and listen to her talk all day. Delaney, fragile and shiny-eyed, was obviously thankful for the distraction.

As we got ready to clean up after dinner, Sheree nudged Delaney, and she took a deep breath. “I’m making dessert tonight. It’s a surprise.”

Before I could even comment Sheree hustled me over to the couch, and we sat there while Delaney buzzed around the kitchen. A bit later, Delaney hesitantly presented me with a plate with what for all the world looked like a pizza crust with no cheese, sauce, or toppings.

She waited nervously until I picked it up and took a bite.

“Damn. I thought I was going to have to pretend to like it. This is actually really good. What the hell is it?”

She lit up. “Pie crust. Store bought pie crust with some sugar and cinnamon on it. And butter.”

Sheree ate hers gleefully. “Kinda like them things at the Mexican restaurant. Sopapillas. Kind of.”

Delaney was obviously delighted with the response and ran to get us all another piece. She topped hers and Sheree’s with whipped cream and some chocolate syrup. She even turned up some chocolate sprinkles I didn’t know we had.

After we finished, Delaney looked expectantly at Sheree. “Was there anything good left?”

Sheree just pulled two movies out of her purse. “One for us, one for Les.” She held up a Disney adventure movie, and a copy of A Bridge Too Far.

It was Movie Night at Dawes’ Salvage, just like every Friday night.


I woke up to a chorus of snores. Delaney’s slightly squeaky soft snores and Sheree’s decidedly more womanly snores. Delaney was curled up almost like a kitten against Sheree. Sheree was nestled into my side with one arm protectively over Delaney.

Just like every Saturday morning for the last few months. Every Friday movie night, they’d get in their pajamas, bring blankets and pillows, and promptly fall asleep after the second movie started. After a month, I’d gone out and bought a much bigger, much more comfortable, couch. No point in having backaches all the time. It took up most of the living room, but it was worth it.

It’d started me thinking about the trailer. It’d been fine when it was just me, but I realized I wanted more for Sheree and Delaney. They both seemed happy, but maybe something other than a two bedroom singlewide in a salvage yard would be a little better.

I looked around at the trailer, morning light pushing rudely in through the windows.

Not much in the way of decoration and most of the furniture was secondhand even if it was pretty presentable, except the new couch, of course, and two new beds: one for me and Sheree, and one for Delaney. It wasn’t even much of a bachelor pad, just a place to sleep and eat. That was all I’d ever needed, but maybe the three of us really needed a place to live. I had enough money, even after paying for Delaney to go to the Learning Center twice a week up in Charlottesville. That hadn’t been cheap but it’d definitely been worth it. Unlike the classy private school that bitch ex-wife of mine had insisted she go to, it was one-on-one with a specialist in dyslexia who actually knew how to help her. She’d never be a great academic, but she was starting to find ways of dealing with her limitations. It showed in her schoolwork.

We’d decided to do the homeschool thing, at least for a year, so Delaney worked on her “school stuff” part of the morning and in the evenings, while spending as much time as she could with me in the salvage yard. She loved taking things apart, and she loved learning to drive all the vehicles in the yard. She was a natural on the stick shifts, and I took her to the old quarry and let her drive Sally around a little bit. For all her frustration and anger, I knew she was happier here with us than she’d ever been anywhere. After her father won his election to the State Senate, I’d been relieved when Charlotte didn’t contact us at all. She’d obviously decided Delaney could be a problem when Charles ran for Governor and had decided I could keep her. That was fine with me.

I could have just sat there all day, listening to them, but I knew Sheree would have to get up and start getting ready. I gently prodded her awake.

She made a purring sound. “I wish I could stay here all day.”

“Me, too.”

“What are you and Delaney gonna be doin’ while I’m at the Quickmart?”

“I’ve got a coupla pickups to do and I think Delaney’s gonna be workin’ on her baby.”

Sheree giggled. “We’re not gonna have to worry about boyfriends for a while. That car is her boyfriend.”

I chuckled along with her. Delaney worked obsessively on her project car, a 1958 Plymouth Fury. She insisted on doing everything herself. I could watch, explain, make suggestions, but that was it. Delaney was adamant about it. She was doing all the bodywork, and even rebuilding the special Golden Commando Dual-Quad 350 engine I’d traded a wrecked Porsche for. Delaney was a little unhappy about that; she’d wanted to use as much of her own money as possible, so she’d sworn to “work off the engine” in the salvage yard. She was making good on that promise; Delaney certainly had her faults, but she sure as hell wasn’t afraid of hard work and dirt. The Fury was going to be her birthday gift to herself for her sixteenth birthday. Be a helluva gift too; even with a non-standard red and white “Christine” paint job, it’d be worth a good $80,000 dollars, at least.

Besides, I wasn’t too worried about boyfriends for a while; Delaney still had nightmares about what would have happened if I hadn’t showed up the last time she thought she had a boyfriend.

Sheree shifted luxuriously and reached up for a kiss.

“Eeewwww, not in front of the kid!” Delaney sat up suddenly wrinkling her nose at us. She looked over at the clock. “Shit! I wanted to get started early today.” She jumped up, dragging her blanket and pillow toward her room.

Sheree giggled again and Delaney stopped and looked back. “Since he’s gonna be doing pickups, can I come down at lunch for a hotdog or two?”

“Or, more likely, three. I don’t know where you put them.” Sheree beamed at her over the back of the couch. “Just be careful on that scooter of yours.”

Delaney had found an old Honda 50cc moped in the yard, and much to my surprise, we’d managed to get it running. She’d promptly cleaned it up and given it a “Christine-ish” red-and-white paint job and wheedled a promise from the Sheriff to treat it as a bicycle for her as long as she stayed off the roads and wore a helmet.

“I’ll take the alley behind the Sheriff’s department. I promise.”

By the time I got back out to the kitchen, Delaney was already there in her oversize mechanics coveralls and steel-toed boots, putting the final touches on her cinnamon toast. I started eggs and hash-browns for me and Sheree.

Delaney sat down. “I’ll soak the nut on that fender in penetrating oil and try it tonight.”

She was trying to make a peace offering of sorts, wanting to be sure we were okay. She couldn’t use power tools or the torch unless I was there, so she was thinking of something she could do.

I shook my head. “Nah, I got it last night. Got it off with the torch. Damn thing bit me first.” I held my skinned knuckles up. “I was a little slow.”

Delaney took a huge mouthful of her toast to stifle a smile. “But you did learn something?”

“Even short bus kids like us can learn eventually.”

She giggled. “Then I’m gonna get my front driver-side quarter-panel sanded down.”

“Wear earplugs, goggles, and a 3M mask. Make sure you put the power sander back where you got it. Sneaking it out of there doesn’t really work unless you put it back.”

She flushed a little and hid a tiny smile. She wasn’t allowed to use the power-tools when I wasn’t around. I knew how she thought, and a sander isn’t exactly the most dangerous power-tool on the planet. She kept leaving it on the bench instead of getting it back on the shelf where it belonged. Of course, I knew it was her way of trying to be honest with me. She resented the hell out of authority, and probably always would, but I was kinda okay with that. She was a lot like me.

After Sheree and I finished breakfast, she headed for the Quickmart and I walked out to the rollback truck. I had to laugh, I could hear the soft buzz of the power sander already droning from the garage where Delaney had her baby set up.


Almost two hours later, as I unstrapped another wreck to unload it, Delaney wheeled her little red-and-white mini-nightmare up to me.

“I’m headed up to the Quickmart to eat. Do you want me to save you a spot?”

I rolled the last strap. “It’ll take me about 20 minutes to get there, but I’ll take one of those foot-long jalapeno dogs with extra hot peppers. Then I have to head out and get that last one picked up.”

She pulled her helmet on; it was black with little fanged robot skulls all over it. “Cool. I can get a head start! I’ll have Sheree put one back for you.”

It was almost 25 minutes later when I started out the gate, only to be interrupted by a call from John down at the tire and auto shop. I did lot of my own work on vehicles, but I had him do regular maintenance. I was pretty sure I didn’t have anything down there, so it was a bit odd. And it got much odder very quickly.

“Hey, John.”

“Hey…Bill.” He said the name with enough finality that I paused in my answer; he damn well knew he was using the wrong name.


“Hold a second Bill. There’s a guy down here looking for a kid. Says her name is ‘Delaney’ something or other. Thought you might know about it.”

This was no misdial. I turned towards the auto shop. “I’m on my way over.”

“Yeah, park around back, got a load of tires coming in, don’t need you blocking the entrance.”

His shop was only a few minutes from the yard and I pulled in the back like he asked, sliding my 1911 out of the glove box and into my belt at the back of my pants.

John was at the counter facing a big guy with tattoos that flowed up his neck out of his t-shirt collar. As soon as I walked in, John started talking. “Hey, Bill. This guy’s looking for that kid that hangs out with Needles.”

He turned towards me. Blocky looking Asshole, with a nasty cast to him. As he turned I recognized some of the gang tattoos and knew why he was looking for Delaney. I shrugged. “Probably down at the salvage yard, like they always are. Couple blocks south of here. Why you looking for her?”

“That’s my fucking business.”

I held my hands up. “Just asking.”

He brushed past me, heading out toward a black SUV, looked like it might be an Escalade, in the parking lot. John looked at me wide-eyed. “You just told him where she is.”

“Nah, she’s with Sheree, eatin’ lunch.” I headed out the back. “Think I’m gonna have a little talk with this fucker.”

John just nodded and picked up his coffee.

I followed down the road behind him, let him get into the salvage yard and then put the rollback into low gear and steered it right into the driver’s side door, shoving the SUV up against the wall of truck tires on the other side of the parking area.

I already had the door open and swung out with the .45 leveled at him before he could figure out what happened. He started to reach into his jacket but stopped as soon as he looked up the barrel.

“Go for it, Asshole. Give me a fuckin’ excuse.”

I heard the front door of the trailer open and glanced over as Delaney stepped out, looking around warily.

“What the fuck are you doing here? You’re supposed to be with Sheree.”

She held up a bag. “Sheree asked me to run back here and get her a clean shirt and bra. The damn Slurpee machine spewed all down her shirt.”


Delaney stepped forward and looked at the Asshole. As soon as she saw the tattoos, her expression changed from confusion to raw hatred. “What the fuck!?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

“He was looking for me, wasn’t he?”

I nodded.

She glared at him. “Are you going to kill him?”

“Jesus. We need to cut down on your sugar intake. I haven’t even talked to him yet.”

She dropped the bag and crossed her arms in front of her. “So what about it, shithead? What are you here for?

I considered telling her I’d ask the questions, but frankly I didn’t have any better ones.

He scowled at her. “Fuck off.”

Delaney shook her head. “Wait, wait, wait. You came out here to grab me or kill me? How fucking stupid are you?” She threw her hands up. “Seriously. The last time some of you fucking asswipes tried that, everybody died. Like, fucking-dead-in-a-ball-of-fire, died.” She leaned forward a little like she was studying him. “I mean, are they trying to get rid of you or something? ‘Hey! Let’s send shithead out to get killed.’ Are you banging somebody’s fucking sister or something? Jesus.”

His hand twitched toward his jacket as he looked daggers at her, but the muzzle of the .45 was a very convincing argument to stay still.

I had to chuckle a little. “You actually have to let the goat-felching strap-faggot answer questions for this to work.”

She looked at me puzzled. “What’s a goat…”

“Don’t ask. And don’t look it up on the internet either.”

“I’m not old enough?”

“Hell, I’m not old enough.”

She shrugged. “He’s probably too stupid to answer. We’re using words that are too long for him. Probably talking too fast for him, too.” She looked at him wide-eyed with mock sympathy. “Does…This…Help?”

The Asshole turned a brilliant shade of red, I could almost see steam coming out his ears. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a car jerk to a sudden stop, the woman in it staring at us while animatedly talking into a cell phone. “Shit, Delaney, get in there and call 9-1-1. Tell them we caught an intruder at the salvage yard.”

“Why…” She noticed the woman on the on the phone. “Shit.”

She dashed inside, tripping over the bag on her way, knocking everything out.

I looked at the Asshole. “We’re gonna talk later.”

It took the Sheriff and two of his deputies all of ninety seconds to come blazing into the yard, just as Delaney stepped back out.

“Needles.” The Sheriff walked toward me cautiously.

“Careful, Asshole here has a gun in his jacket.”

As soon as the deputies had him covered, I cleared my .45 and offered it to the Sheriff. He waved me off. “I know you have a permit for that. I had to sign the damn thing.” He looked at the SUV. “Think you could back the truck off enough for us to get him out?”

I stuck the .45 in my belt, backed the rollback off a bit and slid back out to watch them get his gun and get him out.

The Sheriff watched as his deputies managed to pry the door open and pull the tattooed guy out of his SUV. “So what’s goin’ on, Needles?”

“He’s some kind of pervert. He exposed himself to Delaney.”

“Seriously? You’re going with that? You know he was trapped in his SUV, she’s not even tall enough to see in the window of that thing. Kinda tough to do that from there.”

Delaney broke in, nodding exaggeratedly, eyes wide in obvious mock-fear. “It’s true Sheriff! He did. It was horrible… I saw it!” She narrowed her eyes, then held her hand up, thumb and forefinger half an inch apart. “It was like a penis, but smaller…”

The guy snarled and shoved the deputies away suddenly, lunging towards Delaney, snarling. “Bitch!”

Exactly like I’d expected him to do. With the Sheriff on the wrong side, I had just the right angle to step in and drive my fist into his temple with every bit of my weight behind it; he fell to the ground clutching weakly at his head.